Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Let’s beat the Russians for Michael: Carroll

Roy Carroll has spoken of the determination and desire in the Northern Ireland camp to beat Russia and secure a first international win for manager Michael O’Neill.

 

Northern Ireland have failed to emerge victorious from their first EIGHT games under O’Neill’s leadership.

Add that to the last four matches without success during Nigel Worthington’s reign and it amounts to a sorry tale of woe in recent times.

There has been the odd bright spot, notably when O’Neill’s superb tactics combined with a brilliant team performance last October earned Northern Ireland a 1-1 draw in Portugal.

More of the same will be required against Russia on Friday night in a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park.

Fabio Capello’s Russian side have four wins from four in Group F and top the table. They are looking strong for qualification to the 2014 finals in Brazil and will fancy making it 15 points from 15 in Belfast.

Carroll, impressive since returning to the international arena, says Northern Ireland have other ideas.

The Fermanagh-born goalkeeper has joined up with the squad in confident mood having helped Olympiakos to another Greek title — that’s two championships in two seasons for Roy — and they are on course to complete back to back league and cup doubles.

Carroll, 35, has enjoyed himself with his club and now he wants to do the same with his country who after Russia on Friday entertain Israel next Tuesday.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper also intends giving O’Neill something to cheer.

“I’ve been impressed with Michael since he took over as manager and I know others in the squad feel the same way,” said Carroll, whose six-year long international exile was wisely ended by the current boss.

”I know we haven’t won yet under him but I know there will be real determination amongst all the lads to put that right over the next week.

“The game against Russia is going to be a tough one because they have been going well in our group, but if we are at our best and can get the crowd behind us at Winsdor we might just surprise them.”

Carroll was missing from Northern Ireland’s last international — February’s 0-0 friendly draw in Malta when St Johnstone’s Alan Mannus (below) was between the sticks.

Mannus excelled in that fixture making a fine second half save to avoid what would have been an embarrassing defeat.

Despite that it’s likely the more experienced Carroll will play rather than Mannus when the Russians are in town.

“He’s a good goalkeeper and it’s great that we have competition,” added Carroll.

“Obviously I’d love to be involved because to me there’s nothing better than playing in front of a packed house at Windsor Park, but the selection is up to Michael.”

With the Northern Ireland match on Friday and the next one not until a few days later, Carroll is hoping to get an opportunity to see Ballinamallard play on Saturday when they host Linfield.

Carroll, who played with Ballinmallard before moving to full-time football, has been delighted to see how well the Ferney Park outfit have done in their first season in the top flight of the Irish League.

“Ballinamallard have been fantastic. They've done Fermanagh proud,” he said.

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